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Ouellette v. Gaudette

United States District Court, D. Maine

September 18, 2019

LAWRENCE ROLAND OUELLETTE, Plaintiff,
v.
NORMAN GAUDETTE, ROGER BEAUPRE, and THE CITY OF BIDDEFORD, Defendants

          ORDER ON DEFENDANTS ROGER BEAUPRE AND CITY OF BIDDEFORD’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Lance E. Walker, U.S. District Judge.

         Plaintiff Lawrence Ouellette alleges Defendant Norman Gaudette sexually assaulted him in 1987 and 1988, when Ouellette was a minor and Gaudette was a police officer employed by the City of Biddeford. Mr. Ouellette also alleges that Roger Beaupre, the Chief of the Biddeford Police Department, was deliberately indifferent to the risk posed by Officer Gaudette and failed to take appropriate action to prevent the abuse. Plaintiff filed this civil action against Mr. Gaudette, Chief Beaupre, and the City of Biddeford, asserting violations of Plaintiff’s civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and related state laws. Am. Compl. (ECF No. 22).

         Defendants Roger Beaupre and City of Biddeford now move for summary judgment on Plaintiff’s § 1983 claims. City Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 135). The motion is granted for the reasons set forth herein.

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT FACTS

         Defendant Norman Gaudette joined the Biddeford Police Department in 1973. He remained a member of the Biddeford Police Department until 2000. Plaintiff Lawrence Ouellette was born in June, 1971 and was approximately fifteen or sixteen when he first met Gaudette, while walking home from school. Gaudette called out to Ouellette from his unmarked vehicle, introduced himself as a captain of the Biddeford Police Department, and gave Oullette a ride home. During this interaction, Gaudette offered Ouellette a job with his commercial cleaning business. In the late summer or early fall of 1987, Ouellette and Gaudette engaged in sexual activity for the first time at a commercial establishment where they were providing cleaning services. That was the start of a series of sexual encounters, including encounters while Gaudette was on duty, through the fall of 1988.

         In approximately 1989, Ouellette informed Biddeford Police Department Detective Terry Davis that Gaudette had sexually assaulted him. Davis encouraged Ouellette to report and pursue the matter. Soon thereafter, Ouellette met with Detective Davis and a second Biddeford Police Department Detective, Richard Gagne, and recounted the sexual abuse which took place when he was 16. Detective Gagne then informed Biddeford Chief of Police Roger Beaupre, who instructed Detective Gagne to refer the matter to the York County District Attorney’s Office. York County D.A. Michael Cantara spoke with and obtained a first-hand account from Ouellette.

         Ouellette was not the only individual to report sexual misconduct by Gaudette to the Biddeford Police Department.[1] In the early 1980s, another individual reported to Biddeford Police Detectives Gagne and Lambert, as well as Biddeford Police Officer Fisk, that Gaudette had engaged in inappropriate touching. In the mid-1980s, yet another individual reported being sexually assaulted by Gaudette. In October 1990, an investigator with the Maine Attorney General’s Office, Michael Pulire, interviewed Ouellette. According to Pulire, his investigation included interviews with six to eight persons who alleged they were victims of Gaudette. Pulire also met with Chief Beaupre and informed him of the investigation. Following the meeting, Beaupre placed Gaudette on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

         In 2015, Ouellette became aware of social media posts regarding allegations of sexual misconduct by Gaudette (as well as other Biddeford Police Officers). Of significance to Ouellette was a letter written by Robert Devou, a former detective with the Biddeford Police Department, in which Devou detailed allegations of sexual abuse by Defendant Gaudette that pre-dated Gaudette’s abuse of Ouellette. It was then that Ouellette realized that Chief Beaupre had been aware of at least one claim of sexual misconduct against Gaudette prior to the abuse he endured.

         On October 29, 2015, Ouellette filed this civil action. In 2016, a search of the Biddeford Police Department’s records for documents related to allegations of sexual assault against Gaudette returned no results.

         DISCUSSION

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). As cautioned by the Supreme Court, “the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). A material fact is one that has the potential to determine the outcome of the litigation. Id. at 248; Oahn Nguyen Chung v. StudentCity.com, Inc., 854 F.3d 97, 101 (1st Cir. 2017). To raise a genuine issue of material fact, Plaintiff, as the party opposing the summary judgment motion, must demonstrate that the record contains evidence that would permit the finder of fact to resolve the material issues in his favor. See Triangle Trading Co. v. Robroy Indus., Inc., 200 F.3d 1, 2 (1st Cir. 1999) (“Unless the party opposing a motion for summary judgment can identify a genuine issue as to a material fact, the motion may end the case.”).

         Defendants Roger Beaupre and the City of Biddeford seek summary judgment against Plaintiff’s claims. City Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 135). Principally, they contend Plaintiff’s action is barred because it was filed outside the applicable statute of limitations by more than 20 years and Plaintiff is not entitled to a deferred accrual date. Id. at 1-6. In response to this argument, Plaintiff asserts he did not have actual or constructive notice of his claim against the City of Biddeford or Chief Beaupre until he discovered Detective Devou’s statements on social media in 2015. Plaintiff’s Response at 6-7 (ECF No. 140).

         The federal Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, authorizes persons deprived of “any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws” through state action, to pursue legal redress by means of a civil suit against appropriate state officials. McKenney v. Mangino, 873 F.3d 75, 79 (1st Cir. 2017). “In bringing suit, however, plaintiffs must act within the prescribed statute of limitations; otherwise, the defendant may use the untimely filing as an affirmative defense which, if validated, precludes the court from granting the requested relief.Cao v. Puerto Rico, 525 F.3d 112, 115 (1st Cir. 2008).

         In Maine, cases brought under section 1983 are subject to the six-year statute of limitations set forth in 14 M.R.S. § 752. Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 387 (2007) (holding that the state statute of limitation for personal injury torts applies in the context of federal actions under section 1983); Small v. Inhabitants of Belfast, 796 F.2d 544, 546 (1st Cir. 1986). Although federal courts borrow the statute of limitations period from state law, federal law governs the accrual date of the action. Wallace, 549 U.S. at 388. The accrual date, or the point in time at which the statute of limitations begins to run, is “when the plaintiff knows, or has reason to know, of the injury on which the action is based, ” Rivera-Muriente v. Agosto-Alicea, 959 F.2d 349, 353 (1st Cir. 1992), assuming that the injury affords “the basis for an ...


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